Special to the Journal
Barry Shiffman is thrilled beyond words. It’s been more than 15 years since he’s performed in Rockport, but now he’s poised to make it his musical home.
Shiffman, an internationally acclaimed violinist/violist and educator from Toronto, is excited because he’s
been hired by Rockport Music as its new artistic director, where he’ll oversee all classical music programming, plan and arrange the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, as well as the classical music events performed at the magnificent Shalin Liu Performance Center.
The renowned violinist/ violist will start his duties September 2017 as artistic director designate, arranging classical concerts at Rockport Music, but won’t officially plan the sixweek Chamber Music Festival’s 22 concerts until the summer of 2018. Current Artistic Director David Deveau will helm 2017’s
summer festival, which he has done for 21 years, and he’ll continue teaching at MIT. However, Deveau is stepping down because he decided he wants to focus on his own performance and recording career.
Despite the long break from visiting Cape Ann, Shiffman thinks some concertgoers may remember him from his touring performances with the group he co-founded, the St. Lawrence String Quartet. “I played there [ R o c k p o r t Music] 20 years ago, and there was a dedicated following then; but it is beyond my wildest dreams what they’ve done there. I’m very excited.” When a friend from the quartet called Shiffman and told him about the Rockport position, he immediately applied.
“Barry is an exceptional musician,” said Tony Beadle, executive director of Rockport Music and search committee director. “In a field of worthy candidates, Barry stood out because of his musical and administrative career, his forward thinking about the festival and classical music in general.”
Besides being co-founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Shiffman is currently the associate dean/director of chamber music at the Glenn Gould School and dean of the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists, both part of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. At the Banff Center, he’s director of its summer music programs and i n t e r national string quartet competition, where he’ll continue his duties while he’s at Rockport.
Shiffman, 49, lives in Toronto with his wife Robin, assistant dean of York University of Toronto Fine Arts, and daughters,Zoe, 6, and Lily, 10. He will maintain his Toronto residence, accomplishing most of his Rockport administrative work at home, but will travel here frequently for meetings and other duties. He’ll also perform at Shalin Liu for the first time. “I haven’t had the experience of performing at Shalin Liu, but my friends at the quartet have, and called it amazing. It’s such an inspiring place, with the view for the artists and audience,” he said. “It’s just stunning. Performer and listener both are able to derive great enjoyment.”
Shiffman debuted with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at age 15. He formally studied at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, University of Toronto, Utrecht Conservatory, Hartt School of Music, Juilliard School and Yale University, and spent 20 years living in the United States, working and studying in New York and Stanford University, where he was artist-in-residence and met Condoleezza Rice, who was provost at the time. They have remained friends since then.
“Being Jewish myself, I look forward to connecting to the Jewish community. One of my dearest friends, Osvaldo Golijov, is one of the greatest living composers. He lives in Brookline, so I already have ties to the Jewish community there, and want to make further connections.”